He is not a great speaker – everyone knows that. But he came across tonight as unscripted and casual, where as Kerry sounded just the opposite. That’s not to say I didn’t think Kerry came across badly, but he did look stiff at times. Kerry stayed on message and was consistent in his comments – for tonight, anyway.
Key Kerry point: that he would do a better job and communicating with our allies and in a way that wouldn’t offend them. He did an effective job at getting that point across that, per him, the President didn’t utilize every tool at his disposal to build a bigger coalition in Iraq – but he didn’t exactly say bigger, he said “genuine” which leads me to my …
Key Bush points: The President was very effective in nailing the fact that Kerry denigrates our allies by calling them a ‘coerced’ coaliton and by questioning Allawi’s credibility. I was hoping he’d do that and he did. Remember, Kerry is the one who keeps saying, and did so repeatedly tonight, that he’ll do a better job at bringing our allies to the table. Kerry kept playing into the President’s hands with his comments about the coaltion not being a ‘genuine’ coalition. Secondly, the most effective point and I think the “theme” to the President’s message tonight, was the “mixed signals” comments he kept talking about that Kerry gives off with regards to his position on Iraq. As we all know, he’s been all over the map on it. Bush said those mixed signals confuse our allies and make our troops second guess while they’re there – neither of which should be done, obviously. What he essentially did was attack Kerry’s tone towards our allies and towards our troops and the signals that sends out to the world, something I blogged about last week. Here’s was my key point from that post:
John Kerry has given us his plan for how he’ll handle the situation in Iraq should he be elected President. Fine. But the face he puts on any comments he makes about Iraq is the face of someone who really wishes he’d never voted in favor of the war resolution, and would rather walk on hot glass barefooted than to have to deal with the consequences of it. Our troops, and the Iraqi people and the terrorists they face there, MUST see strength in a Commander in Chief, not pessimism and certainly not weakness. This is not the time for jello spines from our world leaders, in particualar, a US President. Our men and women (alongside the coalition and the people of Iraq who are fighting with us) are in the fights of their lives there right now and the last thing they need is a shaky CIC who regrets voting to send them there in the first place who’ll do little more than the bare minimum required there to get them out, rather than seeing the goal of democracy come to fruition in a place where it would do such good, not only for the people who live there, but for the region, and in fact the world. The sacrifices our troops have made, and continue to make, should not be made in vain for purposes of expediency. The President understands that. In my opinion, John Kerry does not.
Here were some of the Presidents comments to various questions and followups tonight that echo the opinion I expressed:
First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use of force and now says it’s the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place. I don’t see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis? No, the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan that I’ve just outlined.
My opponent says help is on the way, but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, “wrong war, wrong place, wrong time”? Not a message a commander in chief gives, or this is a “great diversion.” As well, help is on the way, but it’s certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it. Not what a commander in chief does when you’re trying to lead troops.
Now, my opponent says he’s going to try to change the dynamics on the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of that country. He’s a brave, brave man. When he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility. You can’t change the dynamics on the ground if you’ve criticized the brave leader of Iraq. One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like a puppet. That’s no way to treat somebody who’s courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country forward. The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free. And I do.
It was essential for the President to get that message across to the American people and I think that was his theme – that Kerry’s position on Iraq as part of the larger global war on terror keeps shifting and that we don’t need a shifty leader like that in these critical times – he did a very effective job of keeping that theme alive through the debate. I’d give the Prez a solid “B” on his performance, and surprisingly, Kerry a B-. Overall, however, it was a draw.
I may add more later but that’s my initial take on it. In the meantime, I’m going to surf the blogosphere and see what others are saying and report back here for duty
More: Hugh Hewitt thinks this is a big (his emphasis) win for Bush. His detailed recap of tonight’s debate may just persuade me – and you out there who may believe this was, at best, a draw – to his side.
Jeff Goldstein believes it’s a draw.
Allah has a round up of critiques. (wink: Jeff Goldstein at the above link) Update: Welcome, Allah Pundit readers
Edit to add one more thing: how in the world can Kerry stand there and say in the same breath that he’d go unilateral – one on one – with North Korea on talks, yet goes for the mulilateral route with regards to Iraq?? This is a guy who’s claimed that Bush went war “unilaterally” with Iraq (we all know that’s not true) yet in the same breath this is how he wants to approach North Korea?
Can someone explain this apparent hypocrisy to me? Maybe I’m having a “Pajama Monologues Blonde Moment” or something.
One more thing before I go night night: does anyone else out there wish that in some alternate universe that it was Zell Miller who debated Kerry tonight? Sigh …